One state lawmaker has an idea – albeit a controversial one – to help address California’s perpetually low voter turnouts.
Let 17-year-olds vote.
And next week, the Lathrop Youth Advisory Commission will discuss writing a letter in support of the constitutional amendment proposed by Assemblyman Kevin Low of Campbell that would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature before it would be placed on the California ballot for voters to decide in 2018.
According to Low’s office, 22 states already allow 17-year-olds to register to vote if they’ll be 18 prior to the actual election, but California’s proposal, if approved, would be the first in the United States to lower the voting age to 17 across the board for all elections. The state already allows 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote.
A bill introduced last year that would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in school board and community college board elections died in committee before it was brought up for a vote. The idea behind the proposal was to allow teenagers the opportunity to have a say in those who are making the decisions that affect their education both at the high school and college levels.
Recognizing that student participation was an important factor in modeling the educational environment around the needs of the students, Manteca Unified School District recently implemented allowing student board members to discuss items up for consideration just like any other elected member, but without the voting power that comes with making decisions on items like budgets, personnel and curriculum.
If the YAC does decide to pen the letter in support of Low’s effort, it would be representative of that particular body and not the City of Lathrop as a whole. It would likely be one of dozens if not hundreds of letters that would introduced to show support for the idea.
And it’s not like the youth of Lathrop, and those on the YAC, don’t understand the ins-and-outs of politics.
In 2010, a longtime member and advocate of the youth advisory commission, Omar Ornleas, ran for Lathrop City Council at only 19-years-old, and despite not being elected outright was appointed to serve the full four-year term that was vacated when Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Chief Gene Neely announced that even if elected he would not be seeking the term he qualified for. At the time, Neely had just been appointed Fire Chief, and wanted to focus on the task at hand and eliminate any of conflict of interest that may have arisen.
Ornelas, who championed the youth of Lathrop during his tenure on the board and was instrumental – along with city staff – in making the Lathrop Generations Center and teen center a reality.
He was eventually reelected to the council for a second term in 2014, but left after only one year to pursue opportunities as a teacher in the Sacramento area.
The Lathrop Youth Advisory Commission meets on Tuesday, May 9, at 5 p.m. at the Lathrop Generations Center, located at 450 Spartan Way.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.